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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Richard Watson Dixon b. 1833

Ode on Conflicting Claims

HAST thou no right to joy,

O youth grown old! who palest with the thought

Of the measureless annoy,

The pain and havoc wrought

By Fate on man: and of the many men,

The unfed, the untaught,

Who groan beneath that adamantine chain

Whose tightness kills, whose slackness whips the flow

Of waves of futile woe:

Hast thou no right to joy?

Thou thinkest in thy mind

In thee it were unkind

To revel in the liquid Hyblian store,

While more and more the horror and the shame,

The pity and the woe grow more and more,

Persistent still to claim

The filling of thy mind.

Thou thinkest that, if none in all the rout

Who compass thee about

Turn full their soul to that which thou desirest,

Nor seek to gain thy goal,

Beauty, the heart of beauty,

The sweetness, yea, the thoughtful sweetness,

The one right way in each, the best,

Which satisfies the soul,

The firmness lost in softness, touch of typical meetness,

Which lets the soul have rest;

Those things to which thyself aspirest:—

That they, though born to quaff the bowl divine,

AS thou art, yield to the strict law of duty;

And thou from them must thine example take,

Leave the amaranthine vine,

And the prized joy forsake.

O thou, foregone in this,

Long struggling with a world that is amiss,

Reach some old volume down,

Some poet’s book, which in thy bygone years

Thou hast consum’d with joys as keen as fears,

When o’er it thou wouldst hang with rapturous frown,

Admiring with sweet envy all

The exquisite of words, the lance-like fall

Of mighty verses, each on each,

The sweetness which did never cloy,

(So wrought with thought ere touch’d with speech),

And ask again, Hast thou no right to joy?

Take the most precious tones that thunder-struck thine ears

In gentler days gone by:

And if they yield no more the old ecstasy,

Then give thyself to tears.